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Cautioning the Bears on a top player at each primary need in this year’s Draft

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Advising the Bears against consensus top guys after most pre-draft rankings have settled.

Washington v California
Davis Webb has risen up draft boards. Why, exactly?
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

What if each team received a line of advice against a player? That for all of the potential a guy had, they’d learn to align their big board properly? If only it was so easy.

By this place on the calendar in April each year, most general managers, coaches, scouts, draftniks, and even fans have made a firm stake on grouping the players they believe are the best in the draft. While many will disagree on just who is the best prospect at safety, quarterback, and more - most generally agree upon on a set group in whatever order. Some, for good reason, are overhyped, and should have a word of caution attached.

Of course, given how Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace plays his and close to his vest, there’s virtually no way to predict what players he prefers and how he sees them in line. So, it’s best to group other’s public evaluations and work in accordance with their beliefs on the set division of best players at each individual position. In a deep class such as this, being in the top five of your position more than likely means many have the thought you’ll at minimum be a quality starter.

But knowing the crapshoot of a basic lottery such as this, means the busts will indeed eventually pop out. There are too many extenuating factors on the field along with the human element no one can measure. Not everyone is destined to succeed in the NFL.

With that in mind and mock draft season now being about playing around while also attempting to find value for all 32 teams, here is that exact word of caution for the Bears on one specific guy in most’s general top-five for each position group in their top-five of needs in this draft (not necessarily in order in either avenue).

Note that the talent is always present in any potential franchise player near the cream of the crop. However, some of these prospects have glaring red flags that might be too much to ignore for Pace.

Quarterback

  1. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
  2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  3. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
  4. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
  5. Davis Webb, California
California v USC
Webb has all of the passing tools but screams of desperation at his position.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  • If I were going to stick with only the top four of this group that many think is a notch above the next tier of quarterbacks, Trubisky would have won in a landslide given his inexperience and the intensive history behind a lack of success for just one-year starters.

Yet since this has been extended, I’m wondering why exactly Webb is getting second round love, and in some cases, even talk of going in the first. The hype machine late in draft season at a position of desperation for almost half of the NFL is likely the best answer, but even then, there’s no reason this guy should be a Day One or early Day Two pick.

Webb’s decision-making can be questionable, he wasn’t particularly accurate in ball placement in college at California, and he may have considerable trouble reading defense’s. But, he throws the ball hard! That’s a plus somewhere. I guess that’s partly why it led to him telling ESPN’s David Lombardi, “Double-digit teams have told me I’m a first-round guy.”

That doesn’t inspire comfort in how teams see quarterback play to say the least.

Is it because Webb has the “prototypical” size at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds and that he “looks” like a quarterback? Probably. When it comes down to it, this guy doesn’t deserve the acclaim he’s currently receiving. I’d advise the Bears to keep their distance from attempting to make him their developmental guy in the wings.

Safety

  1. Jamal Adams, LSU
  2. Malik Hooker, Ohio State
  3. Budda Baker, Washington
  4. Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut
  5. Marcus Williams, Utah
NCAA Football: Temple at Connecticut
Melifonwu is an athletic freak at safety. But do the numbers match the play on film?
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

So of the remaining top rangy secondary generals, I’d be most wary of Melifonwu. He’s in the mold of a Kam Chancellor for the Seahawks, that’s physical and can erase dynamic tight ends, but so often athletic freaks such as him don’t pan out.

At this year’s Scouting Combine, Melifonwu ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, which is ridiculous considering his 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame. He had a 44-inch vertical jump - a safety record - where he shook his head, implying he believed he could’ve went higher. And, an 11-foot-9 broad jump - also a safety record.

Needless to say, guys of his size are not supposed to be able to move like that and it makes him a tantalizing pick for many as he’s currently widely projected as a late first to early second rounder. But in the case of a class like this with potentially other more polished safeties sitting on the board then such as Baker, or Williams later, it’s probably best to pass on a guy like Melifonwu. He has all of the measurables but not the tape quite matching up.

That’s not to say that on film Melifonwu is a bad player. He’s great. It’s more that his stock is being driven up draft boards for testing his speed and agility outside of pads and because he’s quite large. It’s about potential versus proven results which is a slippery slope. Never a wise idea for teams such as the Bears to invest in, who need an impact player bar none here.

Edge rusher

  1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  2. Solomon Thomas, Stanford
  3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
  4. Taco Charlton, Michigan
  5. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State
Charlton has a lot of NFL ability, but might be too raw in the end.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
  • It’s obvious that Garrett is almost 100 percent guaranteed to go number one overall to the Browns, and for good reason, given his generational talent (not throwing that out lightly). But after him, the field gets murkier.

Of the prospects included, I don’t think organizations should be as sold on Charlton as I’ve seen in mocks to this point. I’ve seen him projected as a late first to second rounder and I’m not sure I see that kind of ability to translate.

Among the big red flags, it took until him his senior year to become a non-rotational edge player for Michigan. It’s not like the Wolverines have had a loaded front up until now. His effort can be occasionally lacking and he’s kind of weak at the point of attack against the run.

Teams are likely projecting Charlton high because they appreciate his length at 6-foot-6 with 34.5 inch long arms, but that length will only take him so far unless he gets stronger. An edge guy has to be both long and able to aggressively anchor. He doesn’t do well with the latter consistently enough. His burst and quickness is also good, but nothing freakish.

The pass rush potential from Charlton is what’s being banked on really - with 10 sacks in that first season as a starter last year.

In the end, Charlton is another athletic freak with a high ceiling that would be too huge of a risk for me to take a chance on. If he should fall to the second, I don’t know that I’d be comfortable investing in another guy with frame problems to fix and raw development if I was the Bears.

Cornerback

  1. Tre’Davious White, LSU
  2. Gareon Conley, Ohio State
  3. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  4. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
  5. Teez Tabor, Florida
Ohio State v Oklahoma
Lattimore can be an elite shutdown corner. But his injury issues should give pause.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images
  • In such a great cornerback class, the Bears will have an option to choose a talented player in seemingly every round. It’s an ample year to have a bad secondary.

Of the guys across the entire corner group, I wouldn’t even look Lattimore’s way if I’m a team, and particularly the Bears given what they’ve gone through. There have been recent mock drafts mandating Chicago select him with their first pick, and he even visited the Bears last week.

But somehow, it’s almost as if people ignore player and organizational history when making these projections with Lattimore’s questions.

First of all, Lattimore missed two years due to hamstring issues at Ohio State. He didn’t fully recover and become a starter until 2016, where yes, he relatively dominated, but you don’t forget these kinds of issues. After the season concluded and the draft began to roll around, he then suffered a hip flexor injury while at the Combine.

That kind of injury history should inspire unease in Pace to select a player so high with a valuable first pick considering Kevin White’s leg problems up until now. You can’t have two of your three first round picks potentially never living up to their draft status. This guy has to be an impact player either from the outset, or soon after in a year or two.

Lattimore is the most complete and talented cornerback in this draft but his less than clean bill of injuries needs to have him have a huge, red caution sign slapped on his stock. Steer clear if you’re the Bears.

Tight end

  1. David Njoku, Miami
  2. O.J. Howard, Alabama
  3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
  4. Jake Butt, Michigan
  5. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech v Duke
Hodges will be a beast of a receiving weapon, but isn’t much of a blocker.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
  • Of all of the positions in the draft, tight end probably has the best collection of talent. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is the best class in a decade. It’s definitely not a reach to say it’s the most athletic and physically gifted. Much like cornerback, the Bears will have someone to choose from in almost every round and one guy in particular they probably shouldn’t take.

The clear cautionary tale is Hodges at tight end. He’s not a traditional in-line do-it-all guy. In fact, you’ll probably never use him to block as he’s more of an H-back receiver. One might say he’s closer to being a wide receiver rather than a tight end. In the modern NFL that might be okay with Jimmy Graham types on the rise. However I doubt the Bears want that kind of Y for their specific offense.

Hodges’ size, frame, and speed lend to a big target in the middle of the field and in the red zone, but how will you use him when he also still has to refine the only part of his game he does well in receiving (has played position, let alone started, just three seasons).

Currently, Hodges is being seen as anywhere from a second to mid-round pick. It’ll really depend on value. And this is another guy where you’re betting on potential versus what’s on tape. He’s very talented, but he’s going to have get stronger as well as tougher, and he’s become a better route runner. He doesn’t make as many difficult catches as you’d like a guy with length to do either.

For the Bears, who probably are looking for their future number one tight end to season a little anyway, they just might take Hodges.

But in a class where players such as Iowa’s George Kittle and Arkansas’s Jeremy Sprinkle - two better blockers and more complete tight ends - could be waiting later, I see no reason to take a chance on another guy who still has a lot to put together like Hodges.

Bottom line

Overall, the rewards are great for each of these draft prospects, but sometimes the risk outweighs all future benefits that may or not come. When considering these players to fit their franchise, the Bears would be wise to tread lightly.

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron and Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.